Some athletes and experts swear by ice baths, while others say they’re useless or even detrimental. Hilary Achauer investigates the potential end of the Ice Age.
Maybe CrossFit athletes have a thing for pain. The event is over, they’ve survived whatever crushing test was put before them, and instead of finding the nearest chair, many competitive CrossFit athletes decide to prolong the agony by submerging themselves in a tub filled with ice water.
But why do they do this to themselves? Are ice baths helping recovery or hindering it? Is jumping into the tub just an old habit or the habit of smart athletes? Most importantly, what does the latest research say about subjecting the body to extreme cold after competition? Each side of the ice-bath debate holds strong opinions, but so far no study has offered definitive proof either way.
Proponents of ice baths offer anecdotal evidence and say they just feel better after an ice bath. And even if the benefit is only psychological, that’s still significant. Any mental edge, no matter how small, makes a difference. Those against ice baths for recovery say we’re icing just because that’s what we’ve always done, and many suggest the practice actually hinders recovery. At present, ice baths are still in question, with more science needed to determine their efficacy.